Kenya opposition urges Africa to shun “dictators” – By Andrew Cawthorne, Reuters

January 31st, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Stung by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s presence at the African Union (AU) summit in Ethiopia, opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Thursday the continent should not return to legitimising “dictators”.

Odinga disputes Kibaki’s re-election at last month’s vote and says he is the legitimately-elected president who should be representing the east African nation at the summit. (more…)

Stung by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s presence at the African Union (AU) summit in Ethiopia, opposition leader Raila Odinga said on Thursday the continent should not return to legitimising “dictators”.

Odinga disputes Kibaki’s re-election at last month’s vote and says he is the legitimately-elected president who should be representing the east African nation at the summit.

Instead, Kibaki flew to Addis Ababa insisting he was the legally-elected president of a nation where post-poll protests have degenerated into ethnic violence, killing 850 people.

“The African Union must respect its own charter. It should not replicate its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which was tolerating dictators in the name of non-interference of sovereign states,” Odinga told Reuters.

“We are dealing with a government … unleashing terror on its own populace,” he said, accusing authorities of fomenting “ethnic cleansing” in the Rift Valley and Central provinces — a charge officials level at Odinga’s party also.

The AU replaced the now-discredited OAU in 2002 and has trumpeted a policy of “non-indifference” to African problems.

But the pan-African body did not heed Odinga’s call to block Kibaki’s presence, though Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade — seen as an elder statesman on the continent — has said he contacted the opposition leader to try and get him to Ethiopia.

“I spoke to President Wade yesterday, and he told me they were going to try to get me to the summit of the AU. I am still waiting. I hope the invitation comes through,” Odinga said.

Kibaki’s presence was, he said, “most unfortunate”.

“This offends a section of the AU charter which says that the AU will not recognise a sitting president who uses power to block elected presidents,” he said.

“By going in that direction, it will lose credibility in the eyes of the African people and the international community.”

FBI TO KENYA?

Odinga revealed that U.S. authorities had offered Kenya the help of FBI investigators after the shooting to death earlier this week of one of his Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) legislators. A U.S. embassy spokesman confirmed the offer.

Odinga urged Kibaki to allow that, in order to catch those behind Tuesday’s killing of Melitus Were, and the shooting to death of a second legislator, David Kimutai Too, on Thursday.

Police have called Were’s death “murder” and Too’s shooting by a traffic police offer — who also shot a fellow female officer and was arrested — a “crime of passion”.

But Odinga said there may be political motives.

“The gentleman (Too) of course was with some lady, but is that itself a crime? How can they come to conclusions before any investigations?” he said, calling for an independent probe.

“I think the government is just trying to cover up.”

Odinga said the loss of Too — “a young, promising, patriotic politician” — was a terrible blow to his party.

He was upbeat, however, on mediation talks between his and Kibaki’s teams being led by former U.N. boss Kofi Annan, saying the opposition would continue to hold off on street protests.

“We want to give them the benefit of doubt. So far, so good. Progress is being made,” Odinga said of the talks.

“They want to conclude phase one within seven days. That is dealing with the immediate problems. And then phase two will be the long-term issues, that may take longer.” (Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri, editing by Nick Tattersall)

Comments are closed.